Representative color related work of each invited speaker:
Role of color and pigment in painting of the 15th-16th centuries
The Instability of Early Netherlandish Art
Netherlandish painting of the fifteenth century is a period credited with the invention of oil painting. The technique of Jan van Eyck, who achieved gemlike colors through the building up of layers of glazes, has often been discussed in terms of advancing painting towards a new realism. The Instability of Early Netherlandish Art radically re-envisions the interrelationship of technical analysis and historical approaches to studying paintings of this period by focusing on the question of how artists understood the impermanence and frailties of their materials. Utilizing the degradation of pigments as a point of entry, honing in on regions where process is now revealed, I argue that studying the changes to the surfaces of these paintings can reshape how historians understand the manner in which artists thought about the durability of their materials and the longevity of the Christian narratives they aimed to portray.
As a self-described “Painter” I consistently seek out new ways to experiment within the narrow avenues of color on canvas.
Studio Notations: Color In Play
I will present my studio work, focusing on the ways color is employed. The talk will describe a few projects and the development of my color thinking and improvisation in the studio. The processes of choosing and orchestrating color palettes for individual series of paintings will be revealed with an archive of personal studio photographs and documentation of artworks/paintings from the last twenty years.
I use high-resolution digital cameras as devices for drawing slowly with colored light, and thereby trade away the registration of surface texture in the photograph in exchange for capturing the average unit color of objects and space. I believe Cézanne was correct in seeing that every square meter of the world is unique in hue and luminance. In refusing to allow the camera to perform its usual function, I press the photograph towards the painterly in advance of it being painted, and use the digital images as oblique source material, analogous to musical “sampling,” yielding endlessly surprising structural configurations and chords of color. The positivist immersion in nature thus acts as a supplement to imagination.
Over time, I have moved to mylar, paper and aluminum supports, stainless steel blades to apply paint, and micro-thin films of suspended pigment in alkyd resin as a primary medium. Alkyd resins are an updated, modern equivalent for linseed oil, and make possible a new chromatic vocabulary, for example, an orange that is actually pale, instead of the pink that comes from mixing orange with white pigment. With these materials and techniques, color can be floated on color, or veiled with gray, and no light is lost as it sinks into the coarse weave of linen canvas. Virtually all incident light is reflected back from the white priming of the aluminum support as luminous color.
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He is currently Senior Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts; Director of the Program in Sensory Physiology & Behavior at MBL; and Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University. He was trained in marine sciences at Florida State University and University of Miami, and studied sensory biology as a postdoctoral fellow at Cambridge University in England. He first worked as a tenured faculty at the Marine Biomedical Institute (U Texas Medical Branch) then moved to Woods Hole as Founding Director of the Marine Resources Center at MBL. He has hosted and mentored >30 graduate students and postdocs during his career, and has published 215 peer-reviewed scientific papers in scholarly journals. He regularly combines art and science in his research, including a course he co-taught at Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University entitled The Art and Science of Visual Perception.
Recently his laboratory has focused on a multidisciplinary effort to determine the anatomical mechanisms of skin color and pattern change, touching subjects as varied as visual perception, psychophysics, neuroscience, behavioral ecology, skin ultrastructure, spectrometry, image analyses, computer vision, and art. This research has focused on the elegant and sophisticated interactions of dermal chromatophores, iridophores and leucophores in the skin of squid and cuttlefish, with a view towards developing new classes of bio-inspired materials that change appearance.
Active public outreach featuring these charismatic marine animals has been conducted recently with NOVA, BBC, Discovery, National Geographic, TEDx, and the New York Times.
Sylvia Houghteling has a broad research interest in global histories of textile dyeing with an emphasis on the relationship between dye materials and local ecology, and the distinctive approaches to textile coloration found in early modern Europe and South Asia.
Coloring the World in Wonder: The Poetic Pigments of Master Dyers in Early Modern India
Recent scholarship on European crafts has illuminated important connections between the work of master artisans, such as goldsmiths, glass-blowers and cloth dyers, and early modern methods of scientific inquiry. With their deep knowledge of local ecology and their sensitivity to the chemistry of water and fibers, master dyers can certainly be seen as engaged in scientific practices. In their ability to conjure otherworldly colors, dyers also transcended into the realms of wonder and poetry that European art history reserves for the figurative arts of painting and sculpture. Examining the role of the South Asian master dyer can expand our understanding of the possibilities for the craft of dyeing. Drawing upon a rare, early eighteenth-century Indian dyer’s recipe book and the findings of a recent collaborative dye analysis project, this paper demonstrates that South Asian dyers retained a high degree of flexibility and individuality in their production of cloth, as well as a deep relationship to local ecology. During the period of European intervention in South Asian cloth, the art of the dyer adds a strand of resistance and autonomy. The inscrutability of the South Asian dyer’s craft to European witnesses became an advantage in the seventeenth century when the British, Dutch, Danish and French came to India and began to purchase huge quantities of dyed cotton textiles. While textile painters in India were restricted in their creativity to patterns sent from patrons, a dyer retained control over what one Dutch traveler called “his science.”
Examining the Nature of Color Perception in Multispectral Photography
Is “perfect” human vision colorblind? Most color spaces describe color with channels or with primary colors that are equally different from each other like red, blue and green or cyan, magenta and yellow. The cone in the human eye responsible for red sensitivity barely differs from that which senses green. If one considered the human retina’s sensitivity alone and ignored our perception of color, it would seem that we are all almost colorblind. Compared to other animals like insects and reptiles, who can see into infrared and ultraviolet spectrums, we are colorblind and yet our rich and complex perception of color is an inherent part of our experience.In this talk, Vershbow discusses ways to explore these issues through scientific research and through the making of art. In the laboratory of the engineering department, he has worked with Mikhail Katz’s team to see if human vision can be enhanced by differentiating the way that the left and right eye see blue. In his own artwork, Vershbow creates multispectral photographs by separately capturing and then combing ultraviolet, infrared, and visible frequencies of light.Such images can describe details in nature that would otherwise be invisible to the human eye, but viewing them can change our understanding of how we see and alter our perception of people and places.